The recent flap (pun intended) over rainbow flags on American embassies has revealed another layer of hypocrisy in the punditocracy. It started because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reversed the Obama administration’s policy of our American embassies flying the rainbow flag to celebrate gay pride. Naturally, the gay rights community has been outraged. Franklin Graham weighed in this weekend with the following statement:
“I want to thank President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for making the decision not to fly the gay flag over our embassies during June in recognition of gay pride month. That is the right decision. The gay pride flag is offensive to Christians and millions of people of other faiths, not only in this country but around the world. The U.S. flag represents our nation—everyone—regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation”
I just have one question for Reverend Graham and others cheering this decision: Were you also offended at the sight of the confederate flag flying on US government buildings? The confederate flag is also offensive to millions of people, especially minorities. So, why is it OK to fly one offensive flag and not another?
I’m not surprised that many conservatives are applauding this decision. But what are we? A bunch of liberal snowflakes? How many times have you complained that Americans don’t have the right to NOT BE offended? Why is this different?
But Vice President Mike Pence had the correct response to this. When asked about the new policy by NBC news yesterday, Pence responded:
“As the president said on the night we were elected, we’re proud to be able to serve every American. We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies.”
And that’s the right answer. US embassies shouldn’t be flying the gay pride flag. They shouldn’t be flying a confederate flag. They shouldn’t even be flying a flag with a happy face and the statement “Have a Nice Day.” The only flag that should be flying from any official United States government building is the American flag.
This isn’t about offense. It’s about representation. Years ago, a friend and neighbor of mine here in Georgia caused a lot of controversy when he was elected judge and had the confederate flag left behind by his predecessor removed from his courtroom. A lot of people were pretty upset about it at the time. When I asked him about it, he explained to me that the courthouse was government property. And that the only two flags that needed to be flying inside of a Georgia court were the Georgia state flag and the American flag. He was right then and the Vice President is right now.
The same rule should have applied to South Carolina. For years, the Confederate flag flew over the South Carolina statehouse. It was placed there to protest the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that desegregated public schools. And it stayed there for so long, that most people didn’t think about it, or had forgotten the reason it was placed there. But when activists attempted to remove it, many saw that as an attack on their heritage. It wasn’t until Dylan Roof murdered 9 people at a church in Charleston that the flag was finally removed.
That doesn’t mean that gay people don’t have the right to fly a rainbow flag. You can fly whatever flag you want to in your own yard. Private businesses can offer whatever displays they wish and consumers can choose to take their business elsewhere if they are offended. But government buildings? They belong to all of us. They were established for official state business. And the only flag that should be flying at any time is the flag that represents all of us, whether we’re gay or straight, black or white, men or women. And that is the American flag.